You can’t be blamed for thinking that the pandemic started a digital ‘Big Bang.’
Every day, an analyst or news report highlights another digitalization project or the acceleration of yet another digital transformation project.
But it does not mean that companies are investing in large-scale digital transformation projects in droves. Instead, the real success stories are coming from companies that took an honest look at their digital state of play and started their journeys where it mattered most.
The pandemic indeed made digital transformation urgent.
“A sense of urgency for digital transformation is driven equally by fear of falling behind the competition and motivation to transform to adapt to the new ways of working post-COVID-19,” Terry Crawford-Smith, vice president of sales for the Asia Pacific and Japan at Conga, explains.
But walking the talk is a different matter in a climate of uncertainty. So while some companies saw an opportunity to digitalize, many looked to protect their revenues and customer base.
“Protecting revenue, avoiding churn, and reducing fraud were all key areas that came into sharp focus in creating a robust model around maintaining revenue from the existing customer base while looking for new ways to expand and engage with loyal customers,” observes Crawford-Smith.
“This, in parallel with maintaining strong expense management, was the initial approach for many companies to maintain their margins,” he adds.
Many companies did a triage of their existing digital projects. They sidelined or removed those that added no immediate value to the company’s bottom lines as they adapted to a different market landscape.
“Companies are now revisiting the purpose of those programs, their expected outcomes in the ‘new normal’ and recalibrating many of these programs into more ‘bite size’ and digestible projects and initiatives, to ensure that value is realized in a more incremental way,” says Crawford-Smith.
Digital signing revisited
One area where many companies are starting is e-signing or digital signing.
While digital signing is certainly not revolutionary and has gained acceptance worldwide, its practice and adoption were lacking. Moreover, by making human participation difficult, the pandemic made digital signing critical.
Take the Government industry, for example. “Forcing government service provider personnel to work remotely, the pandemic rapidly called for new levels of automation around tracking and tracing of COVID-19-related events; it enabled government leaders to implement digital signature processing of contracts and agreements that previously required ‘wet signing’,” says Crawford-Smith.
Chief legal officers are also starting to see the wisdom of using these technologies to removing bottlenecks as employees were in WFH mode.
In fact, Crawford-Smith feels digital signing increases governance around document handling for contracts, NDAs, variation agreements, etc., while giving companies a measure of flexibility. “They had to adapt to new digital ways of routing documents, reviewing and ‘redlining’ contracts, and executing approvals.”
Just ask payment giant Openpay. The company wanted to immediately capture the rising interest in the “Buy Now, Pay Later” craze In Australia. So it tried to balance speed to market with customer experience.
At the same time, Openpay customers were asking for post-purchase flexibility as they navigated a rough 2020. So, the payments giant needed a technology partner who not only made their contract lifecycle management (CLM) flexible but could grow with them in the long term — reasons why they eventually selected Conga.
Different starting points
While companies may have similar digitalization goals, their actual starting points will differ.
The biggest reason is that every company has a different digital maturity. It is also where Conga begins with every project.
Conga uses its so-called Maturity Matrix, designed around Offering Management, Agreement Management, and Revenue Management. These are the critical elements of Commercial Operations that Conga addresses.
The maturity of each customer, concerning these elements, starts with establishing a foundation, explains Crawford-Smith. “This includes setting up a central repository with “consistent metadata captured to provide analysis, reporting and search capabilities across customer contracts.”
Next, the company looks to implement a system (e.g., automatic proposal/quote creation with collaboration workflow approvals across sales teams and leaders) before “evolving it through to automation, integration, and intelligence.”
“For example, the ability to retain, streamline and grow revenue and prevent churn and fraud by leveraging the intelligence from a unified view of the customer base,” Crawford-Smith adds.
Such an approach helped Openpay deploy Conga CLM in six weeks and gain results within a few months. These include a 60% reduction in the contracting lifecycle timeline, an 88% conversion rate for Conga contracts, and a 30% increase in contract volume.
Crawford-Smith believes that it will be small steps, not gigantic leaps, that will create a digital-first landscape. Besides, large leaps can add complexity and unnecessary anxiety that companies can ill afford.
More importantly, he advises companies to remain laser-focused on the revenue model. “Conga brings together the Front office with the Back office through incremental capabilities that provide a foundation, automation, and ultimately insight into the Revenue model, ensuring customer retention and expansion, reduction of churn and fraud, and overall creation of a more robust end-to-end commercial model for your business,” says Crawford-Smith.
Incremental steps allow companies to recalibrate their culture and employee experience, which he sees as equally important as technology enablement and DX success.
Whatever the approach, Crawford-Smith believes digital transformation is never much of a revolution.
“Whether you’re a company that derived its revenue lines from traditional bricks and mortar operations or a government organization that traditionally relied upon grants, designing an effective digitalized commercial model is an evolution, not a revolution,” Crawford-Smith says.
Winston Thomas is the editor-in-chief of CDOTrends and HR&DigitalTrends. He is always curious about all things digital, including new digital business models, the widening impact of AI/ML, unproven singularity theories, proven data science success stories, lurking cybersecurity dangers, and reimagining the digital experience. You can reach him at [email protected].
Image credit: iStockphoto/robypangy